Babson College names Jiffy Lube cofounder as next president
Babson College, which marks its centennial next year, has tapped a familiar face to replace Kerry Healey, its outgoing president and the first woman to lead the Wellesley business school.
Stephen Spinelli Jr., a cofounder of Jiffy Lube International, Inc. who worked at Babson from 1993 to 2007, will become the college’s 14th president in July, the school said Friday.
Spinelli, 63, is returning to the school after spending 11 years in Pennsylvania, where he served as president of Philadelphia University and negotiated the school’s merger with nearby Thomas Jefferson University. The deal was finalized last year.
At Thomas Jefferson, Spinelli assumed the role of chancellor, a position he held until June 2018, when he became chancellor emeritus.
In a phone interview, Spinelli said he is looking forward to getting reacquainted with the campus where he earned a master’s degree in business administration and finding ways to maintain Babson’s status as a leader in entrepreneurship education.
The school’s undergraduate and graduate entrepreneurship programs have consistently topped rankings published by U.S. News & World Report. As of September, Babson said it had 2,361 undergraduate students and 996 graduate students.
“It’s an important goal to be leaders in entrepreneurship. Clearly, my life has been about that,” said Spinelli, who grew up in Springfield and has a home in Westwood. “I am committed to building a collaborative network that enables lifelong learning.”
The school’s board of trustees established a search committee in June 2018 to find a successor for Healey, a former lieutenant governor in Massachusetts who was active in Republican politics before coming to Babson. She plans to step down in June 2019 after six years as president.
In a November letter to the Babson community, the presidential search committee said it started with a field of about 200 potential candidates.
Marla M. Capozzi, who leads Babson’s board of trustees, said she met Spinelli about three years ago when she visited Philadelphia University to learn about the Kanbar College of Design, Engineering and Commerce.
The college, which formed in 2010 by merging the university’s business school with its school of design and engineering, is considered a model for combining disciplines, she said.
“Steve is a lifelong entrepreneur. His background and proven track record in both business and academia is really important to us,” Capozzi said.
During her visit to Philadelphia University, Capozzi said Spinelli impressed her with his rapport with students, stopping frequently to chat with them.
“He knew every student’s name and stopped to visit with every single student along the way,” she said. “It took us 45 minutes to go a very short distance across campus.”
Spinelli is headed to Babson at a tumultuous time in higher education, Capozzi said. Colleges and universities are looking for new ways to make money as fewer students enroll.
Capozzi said Spinelli demonstrated his ability to navigate the shifting landscape during Philadelphia University’s merger with Thomas Jefferson University.
In a statement, Dr. Stephen Klasko, the president of Thomas Jefferson University, said Spinelli is a perfect fit for Babson.
“As a visionary, with the wisdom and guts to take the bold steps to ensure that higher education delivers real-world experiences and the training students need to compete in the 21st century, Dr. Spinelli is answering a call that is part of his DNA,” Klasko said. “Those who know him well, also know that he doesn’t stand still for too long. That is what has and will continue to make him so successful.”
Vanessa Fath, student body president for the Student Government Association at Thomas Jefferson University, said Spinelli was popular with students, who frequently encountered him exercising at the gym, enjoying Chicken Finger Thursday at a campus lunch spot, or strolling on the campus wearing his signature brown hat.
“He always said he was a disruptor. I believe that to be true in the best way possible,” said Fath, 21, a senior fashion design student.
Spinelli holds a doctorate in economics and earned his undergraduate degree at McDaniel College in Westminster, Md.
He is married to Carol Fulton Spinelli, an organist and choir director, with whom he has two adult children. His daughter, Kathryn, lives in Westwood with her husband, and their two young sons, Spinelli said.
Spinelli plans to begin visiting Babson after the holidays. A New England Patriots fan, he said he is happy to be returning to Massachusetts. Watching the Philadelphia Eagles defeat the Patriots in the 2018 Super Bowl was “crushingly painful,” he said.